Do Your Homework

by Terry Sawyer

23 May 2008


Little Dragon’s 2007 album never quite garnered the momentum it deserved despite the blogosphere hype that’s launched a hundred lesser careers and artists.  Singer, Yukimi Nagano, has a crystalline R&B timbre to her voice, like Erykah Badu re-tooled for one of those Nordic lounges constructed from cloudless ice sheets.  Almost every Little Dragon song (except the ultra-infectious “Forever”) doesn’t have the smacking immediacy of contemporary American R&B.  Their ballads are glacial and complex; their upticked tracks too whimsical and devoid of posture and cliché. 

For me, this video represents the charming details of making a lo-fi visual representation of a song.  It’s almost as if the video is a constant series of in jokes, like the washed-out pastel t-shirts that look as if they were suggested by someone’s mother so that everyone would “match”.  But there are other subtleties that can be visually arresting.  When Nagano skillfully taps out a rhythm on a tambourine, it’s actually sexy.  That’s hard to imagine in a genre where sexy usually involves butt floss swimwear dripping with off-brand corn oil.  Even the dirty mop-topped back-up dancers seem like a tongue-in-cheek nod to the arbitrary surrealism that passes for serious artistry in many videos.  I’ve also come to appreciate videos that eschew coldly angular choreography for something more spontaneous and individualized (or at least the appearance of individuality and spontaneity).  “Test” looks like it was a fun video to make; you can see it in the tamped down grins that crack through the faux serious faces they wear as they clumsily mime their way through the shrug dance of the Robert Palmer girls.

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